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Graffiti artist chosen to illustrate Pope’s Lent message

Lent poster by Italian artist Maupal

Lidia Magni | Lidia Magni

Anna Kurian - published on 02/01/24

The Vatican called on Italian street artist Maupal, famous for his creative depictions of Pope Francis, to illustrate Francis' message with weekly posters.

This year, every Monday during Lent the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will publish a vignette drawn by Maupal—aka Mauro Pallotta— illustrating a passage from the Pope’s Lenten message. The artist is known to Romans (and the world) for his portraits of Francis painted on the streets of the Eternal City.

An artist’s eye

By commissioning the artist to contribute, the aim was to “break away from a classical presentation” and invite Christians to broaden their horizons, explains Muriel Fleury, head of communications for the dicastery.

An artist’s eye allows us to “see things we wouldn’t necessarily have seen,” she adds. 

Lent poster by Italian artist Maupal

The first poster, designed around the general theme of the message — “Through the desert God guides us to freedom” — depicts Francis carrying a cart laden with a bag labeled “faith,” tracing a path through a desert littered with nails. These nails, Maupal explained at a press conference, represent “our old and new idols, all our prisons.”

“When we follow Pope Francis, who opens the way with the strength of faith, they disappear: The road becomes passable for all,” he added.

The right pope at the right time

This has been Maupal’s conviction since the beginning of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s pontificate.

“As soon as he was elected, I saw a great resemblance in his face to my late grandfather. I began to follow him more attentively. I appreciated his empathy, his defense of the weakest, and it resonated with my way of being,” he tells Aleteia

ROME – JANUARY 29, 2014: Italian street artist Maupal poses next to his street art mural showing Pope Francis as a superman, flying through the air with his white papal cloak billowing out behind him and holding a bag bearing the word “Values”, in downtown Rome near the Vatican on January 29, 2014.

So the street artist began depicting Francis in the streets, highlighting “things he said or sought to promote.” Along the way, the man who defines himself as “not an exemplary Catholic” has become closer to the Church with the 266th Pope.

“Pope Francis appeals a lot to people who are very far from the Church, and I think he’s the right pope at the right time,” he says. 

ROME – OCTOBER 19, 2016: A bishop walks past a new street-art collage by Italian artist Maupal, showing Pope Francis playing tic-tac-toe and drawing peace signs as a Swiss guard keep watches the street near the Vatican.

Making the message accessible

With his seven drawings, which will be “graphic summaries of the Pope’s message,” Maupal intends to offer “seven steps to make it easily readable, even to a four-year-old, in an understandable, simple style which nevertheless is not ‘superficial or banal.’” By conveying Christian values through the language of art, he hopes to “break down barriers and accompany people.” 

For this work, to which he has dedicated an entire month, Maupal also drew on his experience of working as an artist with prisoners.

“I met people who had been through hell […]. I’ve met people who have crossed the desert and, paradoxically, have reached inner freedom, the freedom that God gives,” he told the press.

ArtLentPope FrancisVatican
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